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What is an Occupational Therapist?


Occupational therapy is an allied health profession that plays a key role in the rehabilitation process of many conditions, injuries or illnesses. Occupational therapists possess knowledge about how individuals, the environment and human occupation (activity) stimulate health and well-being.

The Occupational Therapists professional philosophy is to maximise occupational (often referred to as functional) independence.  They use activities that are meaningful to the client to develop treatment plans, taking an holistic and client centred approach.

For occupational therapists, occupation refers to the activities of everyday living that people need to, want to and are expected to do. Therefore an occupational therapist can help a person regain and/or maintain personal purpose and independence in everyday living.

Consider the activities you participate in every day. Getting washed and dressed, cooking, making a drink, getting to work and socialising; or the roles you have, father/mother, son/daughter, colleague, friend and carer.  How would you complete these tasks Lady on wheelchair making breakfastor perform the expected roles if you were affected by trauma, chronically deteriorating health or relapse of some kind?

The Occupational Therapist provides practical support to enable people to facilitate recovery and overcome any barriers that prevent them from doing the activities that matter to them, covering all developmental & life stages.


What does an Occupational Therapist do?

An occupational therapist works with each individual and where appropriate their family to set personal, realistic and meaningful therapy goals.

Occupational therapy intervention utilises many different skilled approaches such as:


  • Adaptation; making changes to the environment for example advising on housing adaptations such as ramp access and bathroom design.  This may also be considering adapting daily routines to maximise occupational performance.  Examples could range from installing grab rails, adapting the activity through teaching alternative techniques such as how to tie a shoe lace with one hand, through to major adaptations such as bathroom relocation or housing extensions.


  • Education; teaching new techniques to support completion of tasks independently, ensuring that the client has the knowledge they need to make informed decisions, or learning new ways in which we can continue to maximise our potential.


  • Rehabilitation; developing packages of intervention that look to improve the client’s performance, whether deficit is physical, cognitive, psychological in nature.  This approach focuses on the person specifically rather than other impacts on their performance.


  • Compensation; used commonly when long-term deteriorating conditions pre-suppose that significant improvements to the person themselves will not be made.  Accepting the person as they are and altering the way in which tasks are completed to compensate for these issues and maximise independence.

Occupation Therapy intervention often utilises a number of these approaches concurrently in order to maximise occupational performance.

The Occupational Therapist uses activity (occupation) objectively to provide the details of occupational performance.  This is known within the profession as activity analysis and is one of the Occupational Therapists core skills.

In applying an activity analysis the therapist is able to determine the clients range of movement, balance, dexterity, depth perception; ability to problem solve, risk assess, sequence and process new information.  The analysis is significantly more comprehensive than this but the list intends to demonstrate how tasks we often take for granted can be analysed in significant detail to support recovery and reablement.ppic-adamferry

Why use an Occupational Therapist?

 Occupational Therapy is a unique profession in that it truly puts the client at the centre of its intervention.  Using client centred goals to drive intervention planning the Occupational Therapist engages the client using activities important to them.

Not only is the Occupational Therapist client centred, they take a holistic approach considering everything that impacts on occupational performance.  This comes from the philosophy that the client is made of physical, cognitive, and spiritual components, each impacted on by the environment in which the occupation/activity is being performed.

For statutory providers and private clients alike, as the profession focuses on maximising independence it provides efficiency and value for money.  It remains more cost effective to facilitate independence through rehabilitation, compensation, adaptation or education than consider the costs of care.

Any intervention from an occupational therapist will start with an individualised assessment that will consider the clients full range of needs including self-care, productivity (work) and leisure to ensure personalised goals are being addressed with realistic expectations.  This ensures that the therapist works in partnership with the client, together developing interventions that promote holistic health, well-being and independent meaningful activity.

Adam Ferry

Occupational Therapist


UK Therapy Services.


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